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Friday, 5 October 2018

Book Review: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

On November 15th, 1959, four members of the Clutter family are murdered in their home in Holcomb, Kansas. No motive could be found and clues were limited. Capote reconstructs the murder and investigation that led to the capture, trial and execution of the killers.

“I thought that Mr Clutter was a very nice gentleman. I thought so right up to the moment that I cut his throat.”
I’m almost ashamed it took me so long to finally read what many consider to be the first true crime novel. The combination of Capote’s writing ability with a harrowing, senseless mass murder results in an incredibly well-written and terrifying book.

Capote’s writing really cannot be faulted, all of his descriptions of landscapes and different characters etc were exquisite. Often true crime books can lack such writing, one other exception being Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, so it’s always a pleasure to read true crime in such a nice prose.

I had gone into this one knowing absolutely NOTHING about the case. Nada. Which is unusual given how much true crime I read/listen to true crime podcasts. It’s one of those books that really brings home how fragile life can be – things can change in an instant. Home invasion murders are one of my biggest fears and I can only imagine what the Clutter family went through prior to their deaths. And all for 30 to 40 dollars!! It makes me feel sick to my stomach.

One of the things I did not like about In Cold Blood were the “fictional” parts that were added in – the scene at the end apparently didn’t happen, the dialogue between characters that were murdered shortly after said-dialogue took place (and therefore clearly not accurately depicted)... I can fully appreciate the benefits of adding these in for the sake of presenting a more well-rounded story, but as someone who enjoys a lot of true crime it just doesn’t sit right with me, for some reason. When it comes to true crime, I just want the facts or possible scenarios, however, this is entirely a personal preference on my behalf.

Capote often spent a lot of time giving us the backgrounds of different people who were introduced to the narrative and it just felt like unnecessary padding at times. He goes into detail about the crimes of another inmate on death row towards the end and I felt like the book had started to lose some steam around this point.

Once I had finished I read up online about the writing process, and how Capote had gone out to Kansas with Harper Lee (this blew my mind for some reason) to conduct their own research into the murder and, following their arrest, the murderers themselves. I also came across articles detailing how this crime and the novel itself consumed Capote, leading to a downward spiral of drink and drug addiction with Capote never finishing another book. I hadn’t known there was so much beyond the book itself, and it was interesting to read about.

In Cold Blood is a novel that is very worthy of its classic status. A must-read for all true crime fans. 4 stars.

Johann
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